Formula 1 is a results-driven business, just like Premier League football. And just like in our beloved national game, the buck begins and ends with the gaffer.
That’s why Mattia Binotto, Ferrari’s Formula 1 chief – who has "tendered his resignation" in a manner that any football manager will be all too familiar with – had to go.
On the one hand, Ferrari enjoyed a glorious revival in 2022, making the most of the new ground-effect rules reset to enjoy its most successful season since 2019. At the first race in Bahrain, Charles Leclerc ended a 45-race barren streak for Maranello, and when he won again in Australia after a narrow defeat to Red Bull rival Max Verstappen in Saudi Arabia, he held a handsome 46-point championship lead. It looked like Ferrari’s season.
The trouble is, it all turned south from there. Chronic engine reliability robbed Leclerc, most notably in Barcelona and Baku, while Carlos Sainz Jr had an engine conflagration in Austria (although he did land a first F1 win at Silverstone), as Verstappen and Red Bull gained awesome momentum.
Leclerc’s own mistake when he spun out of the lead in France was probably where he really lost the thread of his title hope, but a string of strategy misfires were a bigger concern, and it’s in this area where Binotto probably lost the confidence of Ferrari chairman John Elkann.
There’s a strong case to be made that Ferrari shouldn’t follow football’s impatient example, that Elkann should have kept the faith with a long-time Ferrari employee who has contributed so much to Ferrari’s competitive revival. Back in the late 1990s, Jean Todt felt the heat with every passing Michael Schumacher title near-miss. Like Sir Alex Ferguson early in his Manchester United tenure, Todt almost paid the price for failure – with Ross Brawn, designer Rory Byrne, Schumacher and the rest of the Ferrari super-team delivering just in time to save their boss from Luca di Montezemolo’s axe. We know what happened after that first title in 2000. Ferrari dominated in a way that we had never seen before.
But now Ferrari has more in common with its distant past – much like United, in fact. Binotto ultimately was responsible for what can be viewed as a missed opportunity in 2022, and a team that lost belief and confidence through a tough summer and autumn.
Verstappen’s incredible run to a record 15 victories, with team-mate Sergio Pérez adding two more, only increased the negative contrast. It’s no surprise that Binotto has gone, even if for many who know and respect him within F1, it’s a disappointment.